The Republic of Užupis – a micro-nation

Uzupio Respublika - a micro-nation

A highlight during a recent visit in Vilnius was the quirky micro-nation Republic of Užupis, a bohemian artists’ colony that declared its independence on 1 April 1997.

The tiny republic (just over 1/2 sq. km) has its own president, national day (1 April, naturally) and national anthem, flag, and a constitution.

Uzupis constitution

Užupis’ constitution is posted in several languages (including Norwegian!) on mirrors along a wall on Paupio street in the centre of town. I particularly like the articles granting rights to non-humans. Article 1:

People have the right to live by the River Vilnelė, while the River Vilnelė has the right to flow past people.

According to article 13, A cat is not obliged to love its owner, but must help in time of need, while article 12 states that A dog has the right to be a dog.

Profound? Possibly…

Uzupis cat

Cat in a micro-nation

As would be expected of an artists’ lair, the Republic of Užupis is against narrowmindedness and aggression. Dalai Lama is one of four honorary citizens. The constitution was written by founder and president Romas Lileikis, a local film director and musician. If you want to discuss the philosophy behind the micro-nation, Lileikis is often found at the cafe by the river.

Uzupis angel

Angel of Užupis

The symbol and guardian of this micro-nation is a bronze angel on a tall pedestal. And if you’re wondering about the name Užupis, it simply means ‘on the other side of the river’. Užupis was historically the Jewish district of Vilnius. Most of the Jews perished in World War II, and all sorts of miscreants took over the abandoned houses afterwards. During the Soviet era, it was notorious for being the most dangerous part of town.

In the early 1990s, artists moved in, drawn to Užupis by low rent. They have transformed the area into a vibrant, alternative scene with concerts, literary evenings, festivals and much more. Rent is no longer cheap.

Užupis is part of the historic centre of Vilnius, protected by UNESCO since 1994. To get to Uzupis, you cross a small bridge. Any bridge worth its salt seems to be covered in love locks these days, and this one is no exception.

love locks 1 love locks 2

Street art is abundant in this micro-nation, including a photographic gallery along the river…

bilder ved vannet

street art 1 street art 2

street art 3 street art 4

… as is flowery windows and balconies
balkong

vindu

flagg

Have you ever visited a micro-nation?

32 Responses to “The Republic of Užupis – a micro-nation”

  1. ItalianNotes 30 November 2012 1439 #

    I’ve been to some art communes and freetowns like Christiania in Copenhagen and Vincent City in Guagnano, but I’m not sure they qualify as micro nations. Užupis look like a nice place to hang around.
    ItalianNotes recently posted..Secret romantic getaway in Asti

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch
      Anne-Sophie Redisch 2 December 2012 0131 #

      It’s been ages since I’ve been in Christiania, but if I remember correctly, there are similarities here.

  2. Turkey's For Life 1 December 2012 0922 #

    Been waiting for this post. Thanks. We loved it there when we were in Vilnius. Seem to remember being approached by a rather large, red-faced Lithuanian guy (it was morning and he was a long way short of sober) demanding he show us his city. We politely declined and escaped into the pub on the river to see how others escaped from him, too. :)
    Julia
    Turkey’s For Life recently posted..Turkish Recipes: Baked Stuffed Peppers With Bulgur Wheat Filling

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch
      Anne-Sophie Redisch 2 December 2012 0132 #

      Great place for observing, that pub on the river. In the afternoon, too :)

  3. Andrea 2 December 2012 1207 #

    Never heard of this place but I love the idea – are they accepting new residents? =)
    Andrea recently posted..20 & More Things To Do In South Mumbai

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch
      Anne-Sophie Redisch 2 December 2012 1426 #

      I think they might, provided one takes the constitution to heart. Which shouldn’t be too challenging :)

  4. Steve 2 December 2012 1933 #

    Artist colonies tend to rub me the wrong way, but artist colonies with a sense of humor seem somewhat more appealing. Any place where a dog has the right to be a dog is OK by me.
    Steve recently posted..Friends of MKTS – Suitcases and Sippy Cups

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch
      Anne-Sophie Redisch 6 December 2012 1228 #

      Lots of humour and self-irony here, for sure.

  5. Ana O 3 December 2012 2349 #

    Never heard of it. Sounds like an interesting place to visit. Is it a democracy, too? :)
    Ana O recently posted..(re)Discovering Buenos Aires

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch
      Anne-Sophie Redisch 6 December 2012 1229 #

      Very democratic, I think :)

  6. Christina 4 December 2012 0033 #

    Ah I LOVE these random gems and oddities! Thanks for introducing Uzupis to us! I’ve been to the micro republic of Whangamomona deep in the North Island’s bush. But I gotta say, Uzupis has a lot more to offer :)
    Christina recently posted..Jumping off a plane with Skydive Wanaka

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch
      Anne-Sophie Redisch 6 December 2012 1229 #

      I’m intrigued by these self-declared ‘countries’, too – and want to visit many more.

  7. So cool! I have visited Vatican City — micro-nation no ? :)
    Spanish Translator @latinAbroad recently posted..Ek Balam Mayan ruins: Temple history and FriFotos from the PEAK

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch
      Anne-Sophie Redisch 6 December 2012 1230 #

      Micro as in small, but a bit more official the Vatican :)

  8. Laurel 5 December 2012 0018 #

    I’ve never heard of Republic of Užupis, but I like some of their ideas, definitely memorable!
    Laurel recently posted..Rothenburg ob der Tauber: One of My Favorite German Christmas Markets

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch
      Anne-Sophie Redisch 6 December 2012 1231 #

      I hadn’t heard of it either, sort of stumbled upon it. Happily.

  9. Marie 5 December 2012 0020 #

    Love everything about this, the bohemians, the constitution, that you can stop and chat with the president at a riverside cafe, and most especially that the national day is April 1st.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch
      Anne-Sophie Redisch 6 December 2012 1231 #

      Yes, I appreciated the humour behind that as well :)

  10. Natalie 5 December 2012 0534 #

    Never heard of this place and not quite sure whether the citizens or president are plain crazy!
    Natalie recently posted..8 Things I Love about City Breaks in Istanbul

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch
      Anne-Sophie Redisch 6 December 2012 1412 #

      :)

  11. Jade - OurOyster.com 5 December 2012 0635 #

    This place is so cute – I love it.
    Jade – OurOyster.com recently posted..Why India Is The Best Place For Backpackers

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch
      Anne-Sophie Redisch 6 December 2012 1412 #

      Thanks for stopping by, Jade.

  12. Natasha von Geldern 5 December 2012 0824 #

    How fabulously eccentric. I heard of a place in Western Australia recently that managed to declare itself a state through some legal loophole earlier in the 20th century. Independence is a wonderful thing.
    Natasha von Geldern recently posted..Paradise Found: The other side of Bali

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch
      Anne-Sophie Redisch 6 December 2012 1414 #

      Apparently there’s also one in New South Wales, called Aeterna Lucina. Am curious to see more of these.

  13. Stephanie - The Travel Chica 7 December 2012 1803 #

    What an interesting story. Gotta love a place that wants to be different.
    Stephanie – The Travel Chica recently posted..The Brooklyn Bridge in Photos

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch
      Anne-Sophie Redisch 4 January 2013 1602 #

      Creative kind of place :)

  14. Sensibletraveler 21 December 2012 0311 #

    I have never heard of Užupis! This was a fun post to read, and it seems like the nation has some sas.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch
      Anne-Sophie Redisch 22 December 2012 1751 #

      Sassy place indeed :)

  15. Heather on her travels 3 January 2013 1950 #

    I didn’t manage to get to Christiana in Copenhagen, but Stokes Croft in Bristol has the same kind of feel & they call themselves the People’s Republic of Stokes Croft

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch
      Anne-Sophie Redisch 4 January 2013 1603 #

      Ooh, haven’t heard of Stokes Croft. Yet another fun reason to visit Bristol.

  16. Shane Todd 25 February 2013 1507 #

    I’[ve visited the Vatican ,that’s a micro nation right???

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch
      Anne-Sophie Redisch 12 March 2013 1001 #

      Thanks for stopping by, Shane. The Vatican is a micro-state – which differs from a micro-nation in that it’s a recognised independent country.

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